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James Gallagher details how he kept smiling through nearly 2 years off and losing James Krause as his coach

James Gallagher
Lucas Noonan, Bellator MMA

By almost every measure possible, James Gallagher should probably be seething with anger and frustration as he prepares to make his return at Bellator 298.

It’s been nearly two years since he last set foot in the cage and that night ended in a submission loss to future Bellator bantamweight grand prix champion Patchy Mix. He then dealt with a litany of injuries that prevented him from competing, with two separate fights booked and subsequently cancelled in 2022 and 2023.

If that wasn’t enough, Gallagher also lost his head coach and the gym he called home after ex-UFC fighter James Krause got caught up in a betting scandal that effectively blackballed him from engaging with anybody involved in MMA and also led to the closure of Krause’s gym, Glory MMA and Fitness. That forced the Irish prospect to make some major changes ahead of his return yet somehow he just kept smiling through it all.

“I’m not pissed off,” Gallagher told MMA Fighting. “The only thing I can get pissed off about is the work that I haven’t done and fortunately for me, I’ve ticked all those boxes. I’ve done what needed to be done. I’ve got nothing to be pissed off about.

“You can be frustrated or else you can be positive about it. I’m positive. I can’t be f****** with anymore with that type of mindset. You can’t f*** with someone with a positive mindset. I don’t have problems, I have solutions.”

Gallagher’s attitude definitely helped him navigate a perilous journey over the past couple of years in his pursuit to fight again but that doesn’t mean it was easy.

Just when it looked like Gallagher found the perfect situation with Krause as his coach and teammates surrounding him in a home away from home in Kansas City, Mo., it was all ripped away in an instant.

“It was difficult at the start when the gym and all closed down,” Gallagher said. “I’m very grateful for Zak Cummings and Jason High. They held it down and they are still holding it down in Kansas City. I was training with those guys and they put in so much f****** work with me. It was hard but you just have to adapt and put in the work.

“A lot of people get frustrated and forget to put in the work. Like you get frustrated for two days but that’s two days you could have been working and making your next moves. We’ve all got hurdles, we’ve all got obstacles that get put in our way. I’m like a horse. I just keep jumping over these obstacles. I keep smiling and I keep pushing on.”

Even though there was nothing ideal about losing his coach and gym in one fell swoop, Gallagher had no choice but to adapt or die and there was no way he was giving up that easy.

“The gym was taken away from me — people can take everything away from you,” Gallagher said. “They can come and take your f****** house. They can take your car. They can take your f****** money. They can take the clothes off your back. One thing people can’t take is your mindset and your outlook. That’s the only thing you’ve got truly.

“You really don’t got f****** anything else so when you have that mindset, these things don’t become problems. I just see it as a challenge. Obviously it’s difficult. I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s fun and it’s challenging and no one can take that away from me. That’s why I’m really proud of myself.”

It all adds up to a fresh start for Gallagher after he was once touted as Bellator’s answer to Conor McGregor.

“I feel like when you’re given all this hype, you’re kind of at a stage where you’re doing what everyone else wants you to do or what everyone else expects you to do,” Gallagher explained. “It becomes tedious. It’s like ‘he should be doing this’ or ‘he should be doing that.’ People forget, I do whatever the f*** I want to do. I fight the fights I want. That’s how it is. You just block out that noise.

“It’s great to have all these big fights and all this hype but ultimately what I do it for is myself and for the people close to me. The people that really know me. The people that actually know me. My people. Everyone that supports me, that’s what I do it for. All the hype, all the criticism, all the people who write me off because I’ve been off for two years and coming off a loss, those people don’t even f****** know me!”

Gallagher is also quick to point out that even with nearly two years off since he last appeared in the Bellator cage, he’s still only 26 years old.

That means there’s plenty of time for him to accomplish everything he wants in this sport because the way Gallagher sees it, he’s just now getting started.

“I’m still one of the best in the world,” Gallagher said. “I’m not the best yet but one day I’m going to be.”

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